“In our country, children are considered a gift from heaven and if the child is a boy then nothing could be more soothing for the family as from the very beginning children are exempted from severe punishment for any wrong commitment on their part irrespective of the gravity of the act.” This one statement itself says and justifies for the social evil, our society is facing today: Juvenile Delinquency.
In ordinary terms, a child roughly between the age of 7 to 16/18 years who is involved in some kind of a ‘status offence’ such as vagrancy, immortality, truancy and ungovern ability is a juvenile delinquent. Thus, juvenile delinquency is not just about under-aged criminals, who get involved in criminal activities. In fact, the term ‘juvenile delinquency’ refers to the violation of a code of conduct or a regular occurrence of certain patterns of disapproved behaviour of children and adolescents. The well accepted age at present for juvenile delinquents is 16 years for boys and 18 years for girls.
Juvenile delinquents are mainly classified on the basis of their behavioural patterns. They range from the escapers, who keep away from school and get involved in petty thefts and armed robberies, destruction of property, violence and sexual offences. They are also classified according to the type of violation they commit.
Thus, psychologists have grouped juvenile delinquents on the basis of their personality traits as mentally defective, psychotic, neurotic, situational and cultural delinquents. According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, the trend of children committing crime has an alarming echo across the country.
It is extremely hard to trace and keep a check on juvenile delinquency as of all the delinquencies committed by juveniles, only a small percentage come to the notice of the police and the courts. Traditionally, surveys suggest that delinquencies like theft, burglary, robbery, dacoity and other such offences are most commonly committed by juveniles. But recent statistics reveal that juveniles have also been found actively involved in riots, murder, rape, kidnapping and abduction as well.
Reason being that courts and juvenile rights advocates believe that second chance should be given to youth who commit crimes, so criminals are walking in the streets, living as our neighbours and in many cases committing additional crimes.
The delinquency rates are comparatively much higher among boys than in girls. Children from broken homes or disturbed families who are either homeless or living with guardians are more likely to indulge in criminal activities. Low education or illiteracy and poor economic background are major features of juvenile delinquents. But now-a-days, it’s not only street children who take to crime, even children from well-off middle and upper middle class families are turning to crime due to peer pressure and crime thrill—the hunger of adolescents to be heroes among their friends, the need to portray class and style, effect of cinema have propelled the rate of juvenile delinquency in the society.
The media plays a major role in creating bogus desires and images in the minds of the youth, for which they are willing to do anything. Moreover, unmonitored access to the internet is another reason for growth in these crimes, as many are caught swindling money from bank accounts. Children belonging to the elite class, who are either sons or daughters of politicians, businessmen are also found involved in criminal acts. This largely attributes to criminals going scot-free in high-profile criminal cases, so the fear barrier no longer exists.
Increased exposure combined with isolation is the root cause of these behavioural issues. Children are growing up much faster, but their conscience and ability to distinguish between right and wrong isn’t developing at the same rate and they don’t feel the need to think things through. In most cases, the cause behind juvenile delinquency is defective upbringing or no upbringing, faulty or no family interaction. Children are not born criminals.
It’s the situations and circumstances that lead them into delinquencies. Mostly all juvenile offences have deeper roots and serious situational factors which are responsible for a child behaving in a particular way. Family plays a vital role in structuring the mental, emotional and behavioural patterns of a child. Other factors that are responsible for the rise in juvenile delinquency are unhealthy neighbourhood, cinema, pornographic literature and bad company.
In UK, child between 10 to 18 years become criminally responsible for his action and be tried by the youth court or could be tried in an adult court as per the gravity of the offence committed. In our country too, the time has come to bring some reforms in the Juvenile laws. There is a steep rise in serious crimes involving youth of 16 to 18 years of age as they very well know that below 18 years is the ‘getaway pass’ for them from criminal prosecution. The punishment should be made a big deterrent in order to inject the feeling of fear in the mind of the criminals.
In the recent 2012 Delhi gang rape case, media too highlighted that ‘Most Brutal’ of all the accused person was the juvenile. For the brutalising act, he has been sentenced to imprisonment for the period of 3 years where others have got the death sentence. The principle that should have been followed for trying juvenile offenders is that Juvenility should be decided as per the state of mind and not just the state of body.
Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 was enacted by our Parliament in order to provide care, protection, treatment, development and rehabilitation of neglected or delinquent as a uniform system of juvenile justice mechanism throughout our country. These days we have observation homes, reformatory schools, custody institutions, probation homes etc., to help juvenile delinquents reform themselves so that they can be gradually absorbed into mainstream of the society.
Moreover, we need to pay greater attention to improve the average condition in a society so that no child confronts such situations that force them to adopt unacceptable behavioural patterns. We need to find ways and means to pool the youthful energy of the children in a constructive and desired direction.